At Our fifth Seattle HR Collective MeetUp, where current and aspiring HR professionals come to engage in a conversation with industry leaders who share their secret sauces and network together with the goal of elevating the impact of HR functionality in the Seattle area, we welcomed Rebecca Clements, VP of HR at Moz. Anyone who can keep an indoor audience enthralled during such a sunny day in Seattle deserves the title of Engagement Master, and it’s just as well – employee engagement was the topic of the night and Rebecca delivered.
Employee engagement has been a topic of keen interest for years, especially as Gallop studies show that 70% of US employees self-report as unengaged. A key question that countless companies continue to ask is how do we best engage employees? What does that look like.
Rebecca kicked off the evening with her joyful, comedic approach. She’s been at Moz for four years and leads Team Happy, a team whose function is to prioritize employee engagement and foster a happy, healthy, and growth-oriented work environment. She doesn’t just do this, she lives it, fully embodies Moz’s cultural value system.
Rebecca show-cased one company’s example of employee engagement practices in play. Moz’s system, TAGFEE, stands for Transparent, Authentic, Generous, Fun, Empathetic, Exceptional. Throughout our time together, Rebecca embodied these values. But even she was cynical of this system when she first started at Moz, and has since come around to the TAGFEE way of life. Not because she had to, but because it works.
I’ll See Your Warm Fuzzies And Raise You A Whole Person
Rebecca gave us a breakdown of the TAGFEE value system. It was powerful to witness the TAGFEE values in action, as here we had a VP of HR embracing the transparency, honesty and vulnerability to share stories about her company’s (as well as her team’s and her own) engagement practices, the low and high points.
Transparency and authenticity go hand-in-hand (and also happen to represent the first two letters of TAGFEE). Moz commits to all-staff transparency in the form of monthly financial reports of the whole company, and in return encourages their employees to bring their best, most authentic self to work each day. The importance of work-life balance is widely known and demonstrated at Moz and these values put a spin on it by creating a safe and useful space to air personal and professional challenges and encouraging employees to actually use that space. Moz does this in a number of ways, such as through programs like Lunch & Learns where the staff gather to listen to stories of triumph and tribulation from their colleagues – often resulting in an outpouring of support and solutions. These sessions have ranged from talking about issues of anxiety and depression to tales of adoption and transformation to light-hearted how-to sessions. In sharing, the community has become closer and more willing (and able) to reach out and support those who belong to it.
Which leads easily into Moz’s next value: Generosity. We all know what that means but often don’t take a look at what it can really do for a company culture. Generosity is the value governing the service of others in the name of community and growth, and not just in terms of resource and opportunity. Sure, charity donation matching is great, but it’s important (and effective) to go beyond financial generosity and institute systems of support that are less tangible, less observable. Things like open performance mentoring, dispute resolution, community involvement are worth every moment, even if you can’t easily see a quick or obvious return on your investment. By being generous with time, resources, and ideas, you can create an environment that is open and willing to engage, that shares with itself and others. Speaking of generosity, Moz offers employees a vacation stipend (in place of bonuses) and encourages them to travel, then come back with pictures and share their learnings. This is yet another means for employees to expand their horizons, continue to learn about themselves and the world and get to know each other better while refueling.
Turns out engagement of this nature can end up being fun (the F in TAGFEE) for everyone involved. Fun and creative team-building outlets such as a Moz version of the cooking show, ‘Chop’d’ where employees use food stocked in the kitchen to create recipes on the fly. In cultivating a positive and open work environment (one that values transparency and honesty) you create a place where people come to assume good intent towards each other. Empathy between employees plays a big part in decision making and the development of good judgment and good will. You have to go farther than simply ‘treating others as you wish to be treated’ in order to reach that golden zone where employees both trust and connect with each other. Once you do, you’ll get your payout in greater work ethic, ideas, and productivity. It’s a win-win.
Moz’s TAGFEE system is just one example of a company culture that expends resources and holistically contributes to the betterment of all included. It’s a company that has seen both measurable and immeasurable value spring from its cultural values. Different from the sort of values that target tangible gains and outward success, this sort of inward-facing prioritization of 100% of each individual employee fosters a community that not only wants to be be exceptional (the final TAGFEE E!) but knows they can be, that they will be. That’s engagement in its wholest, truest form: when people engage all of themselves at work — rather than compartmentalizing who they are. This “whole person” approach to employee engagement, where people are encouraged and expected to bring their entire self to work, gives people the freedom and permission to full develop who they are and their interests, and are supported in doing so. Moz offers all employees the opportunity to enroll in performance and coaching programs if they choose, investing in their personal and professional development. It’s a significant investment to be sure, one that improves interpersonal communication, individual growth, and overall productivity.
Yes, Moz’s culture is uncommon, to say the least. Perhaps in the end it’s about understanding that investing in your employees takes more than tossing out bonuses, matching charity donations, and laying out career trajectories. It takes work, it takes fostering a culture of engagement that works for the employee, as well as the other way around. A company culture is something that happens around you whether you will it or not, so why not take the time and resources to will it into something that works for employees and the company. After all, it’s your people who represent your brand, your productivity and who make your bottomline happen. Engaging your employees shouldn’t be a chore, it should be the very power behind the company.